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  • Rian Sullings

5 Steps to Successful Smart Metering - 3. Analyse Data & Gain Insight

Part 3 in the series on successful smart metering. This series highlights 5 key steps to ensure smart metering projects meet their goals and requirements. These steps are:

1) Define Your Requirements (Posted here 16/01/2017)

2) Choose the Right Solution (Posted here 18/01/2017)

3) Analyse Data and Gain Insight

4) Take Action to Improve Efficiency

5) Ensure On-going Success

Over the coming weeks I will be posting these steps as individual articles and then compiling them into an overarching article.

Step 3) Analyse Data and Gain Insight

Once hardware and software have been implemented, the next step of successful smart metering is to analyse data and turn it into insightful and actionable information. This is where the benefits of smart metering start to be realised and opportunities to save resources and money appear.

Your individual use cases will determine the level of data analysis that you undertake. Some common examples of smart metering data analysis are:

Base Flows/Leaks: in graphical form, this is where the flow rate never reaches zero, indicating constant usage. If there is constant usage, consider what equipment is in your facility. If nothing should be constantly using water, you probably have a leak or a tap left on. For smart metering of water this simple analysis is often ‘the low hanging fruit’ for realising efficiency gains. Our users are regularly surprised at the quantity and size of leaks realised and the savings of water, money that can be achieved.

Manage Alarms: your smart metering software should be capable of generating alarms. These alarms are triggered when usage is occurring outside pre-determined parameters. The operators and stakeholders then receive an email or text message notifying them of the event. Use any existing data you have such as past utility bills, industry standards, plant specifications, equipment datasheets and your on-site experiences to determine what alarms to set. For water, leak alarms are typically set for usage exceeding a small amount, say 10 litres, at a time when no usage would normally occur, say between 2am and 5am. Ensure alarms are delivered to the right people. The people responsible for your utility spend, your facility manager, your sustainability manager, the director. Make sure that alarms are investigated and acted upon. Our clients see great success when we manage their alarms for them from setting trigger parameters, receiving the alarms, checking the detailed metering data, calling the client to explain the situation and offering advice and support.

Multiple Site Cross Comparison: if you have multiple sites, you can compare sites against each other to give a high level overview. This will allow you to focus your attention in critical areas. Does one of your sites use significantly more water than the others? Could this be due to inefficient plant equipment or processes? You can add other factors to improve your comparison. A powerful formula to make multiple site cross comparisons is

Total Use Per Site ÷ Scale of Site = Use per Unit

where Total Use Per Site is the total resource consumption at each site, Scale of Site is the output e.g. quantity of product produced, number of people on site, or size of facility and Use per Unit is the total resource use relative to the output of each site. This is the best way to gauge efficiency of your sites.

Automated Reports: a simple summary of your usage can give you a brief overview of your usage to see how your performance is tracking and help identify and major problems. Smart metering software can automatically give you summaries such as total monthly use by site, OR, weekly use by network zone. As well as helping you identify issues, the automation of reports can significantly reduce manual labour required to calculate figures and create tables and charts.

Untimely Use: equipment may be operating outside its required schedule. A common instance of this is irrigation systems running on days that it is not required or in less efficient hours. Unscheduled use can also result from human actions such as water theft.

Heat Mapping: this is a great way to visualise when and where usage occurs. Usage is represented in a table or grid with cells correlating to periods of time. Each cell is shaded lighter or darker for less or more usage. Analysist can quickly see ‘hots spots’ where resource is at its highest. This can quickly show areas where efficiency can be improved e.g. cooling tower water use begins at 05:30am in summer but people don’t arrive on site until 07:30am. If the air conditioning is started at 06:30am, the facility will reach optimal temperature just before people arrive at the building, while saving 1 hour of water and electricity use.

Bench Marking: do your sites and facilities have bench marks? Do you know the manufacturer consumption specifications for your processes and equipment? Are their industry standards to compare your site to others? Your government or industry body may have published data on how much resource use to expect for a site like yours. For example, a great resource for buildings in Australia is NABERS. Water utilities typically see losses between 10 to 20% where water is lost through the network before reaching a consumer. Some utilities may feel that 5% losses is an acceptable benchmark, but if 2%, 1%, or even less are achievable then these improved figures should be the target. Industry bench marks are often helpful for starting out but ultimately your bench marks should be based on the best performance that you can achieve. When it comes to saving resources and money, it is best to lead rather than simply meet the minimum requirements. Bench marks will likely change over time as your processes improve or your facility grows.

Expert consultants use these tools and processes to turn data, charts, graphs, and alarms into insights to your resource use. We help our clients achieve success by having our consultants and engineers apply their experience to analyse their data and maximise the savings opportunities.

One of the biggest causes of smart metering projects not achieving real outcomes is when there is no commitment to having experienced people frequently analysing data. It is critical to ensure your project includes analysing data to gain insights in its scope.

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